VIENNA, April 5. /TASS/. Austria refused to expel Russian diplomats over the so-called Skripal case as it traditionally maintains good relations with Russia and is the headquarters for international organizations where diplomats hold dialogue on a daily basis, Austrian Chancellor Sebasitan Kurz said.
"One third of EU countries did not expel Russian diplomats and we were among them. Together with the foreign minister, I made a decision not to do this [expel diplomats] as we traditionally maintain good relations with Russia and are a neutral country and act as the headquarters for many international organizations such as [the office] of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe," he said.
"Every day hundreds of diplomats hold talks in Vienna, on a neutral territory, and we develop our role on building bridges. We could have made another decision, there are different arguments, but I think we made the right decision," Kurz told a talk show broadcast on Puls4 TV.
Kurz noted that Austria along with other EU member-states had decided to recall an EU ambassador to Moscow for consultations in Brussels.
"By this gesture we condemned Russia and showed solidarity with the United Kingdom," he noted.
Austria against diplomats’ expulsion
Former Colonel of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate Sergei Skripal, who had been sentenced in Russia for spying for the UK, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4 and found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, England. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.
Without providing any proof, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended all planned high-level bilateral contacts. In response, Moscow expelled the equal number of UK diplomats. In addition, Britain’s consulate in St. Petersburg was ordered to be closed and the British Council’s operations in Russia were terminated.
On March 23, Kurz announced that Vienna would not kick out Russian diplomats over the Skripal case as Austria wanted to keep channels for dialogue with Russia. On March 26, European countries, the United States, Canada and Ukraine announced the decision to expel Russian diplomats. On the same day, Kurz stated again that Austria would not follow suit.
On March 27, Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl announced that the UK and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had not provided 100% evidence of Russia’s role in the Skripal case and Austria maintained its position on refusing to expel Russian diplomats. The next day, Kneissl said that the UK Ambassador to Austria had repeatedly voiced discontent over Vienna’s decision.